CHICAGO (CBS) — A handful of soldiers gathered Thursday morning at Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park on the Chicago River, to announce their opposition to NATO, and announce that they’re giving back their service medals on Sunday, at the start of the NATO summit.
The soldiers said it will be a peaceful gathering, but one that’s important for leaders to see.
CBS 2’s Marissa Bailey reports a handful of soldiers announced they are giving back their war medals to show NATO leaders they want nothing to do with foreign wars.
“I wanted so badly to believe in the idea of America. I wanted to believe that every war we ever fought, we won; that we were always just; that we were always doing the right thing, and trying to help, and save, and protect,” said former Army Ranger Graham Clumpner, who was deployed twice to Afghanistan. “And I bought into it hook, line, and sinker.”
Clumpner was given a Global War on Terrorism Service Award for his service fighting against the Taliban.
He said he was proud to join the military, but grew disillusioned, and ashamed of how operations were carried out.
“We’d go into people’s houses and go through literally all of their things, open up every single drawer and dump stuff on the ground, push things over, kick things over, and … make absolutely no effort to apologize, or pay people, or explain,” Clumpner said. “That process, for me, was the most traumatizing.”
Clumpner said he’s not happy with how troops were treated when they returned home, or how troops were trained to interact with native Afghans on the ground.
He said he hopes giving back his medals sends a message, loud and clear, to NATO leaders.
“As I throw back these medals on Sunday, I am saying that I reject. I return these to you and I’m no longer part of your system. I am no longer part of your organization. I am no longer part of your war,” he said.
There are at least 20 soldiers expected to give back their war medals on Sunday. Organizers said soldiers from every state will be at the ceremony, which they said will be “solemn and reverent.”
Organizers said they hope someone from NATO comes out to acknowledge them and accept the return of their medals during Sunday’s protest. If not, they hope a representative for the protesters can be allowed inside the summit to deliver their medals to NATO leaders. Otherwise, they’ll likely toss their medals over the barricades surrounding McCormick Place during the summit.